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Barack Obama, when he was new in the Oval Office, signed a “hate crimes” law that created a two-tier system of punishment, increasing the punishment for a Christian pastor who attacked a homosexual but not for a homosexual who attacked a Christian pastor.

The reasoning was simple. The homosexual is in a protected class of U.S. citizens, but the Christian pastor is not.

The next step in that agenda now is being proposed by a Democrat in Congress, who said he wants a report submitted that investigates how technology is used to advance “commission of crimes of hate.”

The original law, called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was signed by Obama when Democrats strategically attached it to a “must-pass” $680 billion defense-appropriations bill in 2009.

The law cracks down on any acts that could be linked to criticism of homosexuality or even the “perception” of homosexuality. Obama boasted of his accomplishment.

“After more than a decade, we’ve passed inclusive hate-crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray or who they are,” he said.

But the criticism was vocal and pointed. American Family Association President Tim Wildmon warned the new law “creates a kind of caste system in law enforcement, where the perverse thing is that people who engage in nonnormative sexual behavior will have more legal protection than heterosexuals. This kind of inequality before the law is simply un-American.”

He pointed out that the legislation also creates possible situations in which pastors could be arrested if their sermons on sexuality can be linked in even the remotest way to acts of violence. For example, if someone hears the biblical description of homosexuality as a sin and uses that message as a reason for acting.

The Alliance Defending Freedom also blasted the “hate-crimes” bill, calling it “another nail in the coffin of the First Amendment.”

“All violent crimes are hate crimes, and all crime victims deserve equal justice,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said in a statement. “This law is a grave threat to the First Amendment because it provides special penalties based on what people think, feel or believe.”

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, testified before Congress against the hate-crimes bill.

“It is fundamentally unjust for the government to treat some crime victims more favorably than others, just because they are homosexual or transsexual,” Dacus said. “This bill is an unnecessary federal intrusion into state law-enforcement authority, and it is an unwise step toward silencing religious and moral viewpoints.”

Now Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is calling for a specific review of how such “hate speech” finds its way onto the Internet, television and radio.

The goal, he said, is to “better address such crimes.”

His plan would create “an updated comprehensive report examining the role of the Internet and other telecommunications in encouraging hate crimes based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation and create recommendations to address such crimes.”

Markey, of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said he wants to know “the current prevalence of hate crimes and hate speech in telecommunications.”

He referenced the recent shootings near Kansas City that left a couple of people dead. The alleged perpetrator is suspected of having longstanding racist leanings.

“We have recently seen in Kansas the deadly destruction and loss of life that hate speech can fuel in the United States, which is why it is critical to ensure the Internet, television and radio are not encouraging hate crimes or hate speech that is not outside the protection of the First Amendment,” said Markey. “Over 20 years have passed since I first directed the NTIA to review the role that telecommunications play in encouraging hate crimes. My legislation would require the agency to update this critical report for the 21st century.”

“The Internet has proven to be a tremendous platform for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. However, at times it has also been used as a place where vulnerable persons or groups can be targeted,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

“I commend Sen. Markey for his longstanding leadership with respect to combating hate crimes in America. He understands that in the digital era it is important to comprehensively evaluate the scope of criminal and hateful activity on the Internet that occurs outside of the zone of First Amendment protection. With the introduction of Sen. Markey’s bill, we have taken a substantial step toward addressing this issue.”

The focal point of criticism, however, is that “hate speech” has such a wide definition, even including references in the Bible that are critical of homosexuality. The Bible, for example, calls homosexuality an abomination, and homosexuals frequently object to that characterization.

The original law drew widespread opposition from conservatives, whose speech could make them targets.

“If this law is used to silence me or any of these preachers for speaking the truth, then we will be forced to conscientiously defy it,” Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, declared at the time. “That is my calling as a Christian and my right as an American citizen.”

Janet Porter of Faith2Action called it a “sad day for America.”

“While a small minority of homosexual activists are celebrating, thousands of pastors, priests and rabbis are lamenting their loss of First Amendment freedoms. I for one refuse to bow before this unjust and unconstitutional law, and I intend to continue to preach the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Scriptures,” she wrote.

“But this law doesn’t just affect pastors; it will criminalize the beliefs of millions of ordinary people who may now be afraid to speak even their pro-marriage positions lest it spark a federal ‘hate crime’ investigation,” Porter wrote.

The bill signed by Obama was opposed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which called it a “menace” to civil liberties. The commission argued the law allows federal authorities to bring charges against individuals even if they’ve already been cleared in a state court.

Liberty Counsel litigation counsel Matt Krause told WND when the law was passed: “It’s a very sad day for America and for religious liberties in general.”

He said the law will not deter crime or help the law-enforcement system.

“The only thing it will do is silence and scare Christians and religious organizations,” Krause said. “It will penalize thoughts and actions, and it will not stop crime. It should be called the ‘thought-crimes’ bill.”

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